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Decoding Your Radiator Knobs: A Guide to Chicago’s Vintage Heating Systems

Heating, Older Homes

White radiator against a wall

Here in Chicagoland, many older homes in the area rely on radiators to provide consistent heating on the coldest days of the year. If you live in an older home and are unfamiliar with radiator systems, you may have some difficulty figuring out how to operate them at first. Radiators are equipped with several knobs, each of which has a different function that can impact your home comfort.

In this blog post, the older home HVAC experts at American Vintage Home provide a comprehensive guide to understanding your radiator’s knobs so you can enjoy lasting comfort.

Understanding Your Radiator Knobs

Radiator with two pipe lines

Located at the bottom of your radiator, you will notice a set of valves (or knobs) that feature a twisting mechanism on top. These valves are responsible for controlling the amount of heat your radiator releases throughout the day. Typically, there are two valves on the radiator. One of the valves controls the amount of hot water that enters the radiator, while the other is known as the lockshield valve.

The lockshield valve controls how much heat comes out of your radiator system as well as how much water flows out of your radiator. It’s usually covered with a plastic cap and is fixed in place to prevent tampering.

Types of Radiator Valves

Along with the different functions these valves perform, there are also different types of radiator valves: thermostatic and manual. A manual radiator valve is the most common type. They require manual manipulation to regulate the temperature in your home, operating similarly to a tap, as they alter the flow of water from the boiler into your radiator system.

By contrast, a thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) offers greater control as they are equipped with more advanced features. Just like a manual valve, homeowners must adjust the TRV to their desired temperature. However, once the TRV senses that the temperature has been reached, it will automatically stop the flow of hot water to your radiator to prevent energy waste.

Operating & Maintaining Your Radiator

If it’s your first time owning a home with a radiator, you may be wondering exactly how to use it. Here are a few key operational tips to keep in mind:

Setting the Temperature

Hand adjustment of the heating temperature on the radiator.

Your indoor temperature is regulated using the aforementioned valves or knobs on your radiator system. To set the temperature, simply locate the knob or valve on the radiator, then turn the knob clockwise to increase the temperature or counterclockwise to decrease it.

Bleeding Your Radiator

Over time, air pockets can become trapped within your radiator, leading to reduced efficiency. To get rid of these air pockets, you’ll need to periodically “bleed” your radiator. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Turn the heating system off and wait for it to cool down.
  2. Locate the bleed valve at the top of the radiator.
  3. Place a container beneath to catch any water that drips out.
  4. Using a radiator key or flat screwdriver, slowly turn the bleed valve counterclockwise until you begin to hear hissing.
  5. Once water starts to flow steadily, close the valve by turning it clockwise.
  6. Check the pressure gauge on your boiler to ensure it is within recommended range.

Additional Maintenance Tips

While nothing can substitute professional maintenance, there are some things that homeowners should do on their own to keep their systems in top condition in between annual tune-ups. Regularly inspect the valves and knobs on your radiator for signs of visible damage or water leaks and replace them as needed. Be sure to keep the area around your radiator clean and free of obstructions to encourage adequate airflow. Additionally, check for leaks or corrosion on the radiator as well as its pipes, addressing any known issues promptly to prevent further damage.

Take the Next Step

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Troubleshooting Common Issues

As with any heating system, radiators can malfunction from time to time. The most common problems you likely will run into with your radiator include:

  • Uneven heating: This usually occurs when there is air trapped in the radiator or the valves are not fully open. Check to see that the valves are open and bleed the radiator to remove any trapped air.
  • Excessive noise: Noisy radiators are typically caused by loose fittings or trapped air and sediment buildup within the unit. Again, bleed the radiator and tighten any loose fittings or brackets to reduce noisiness.
  • No heat: Once more, this issue typically happens when the valves are partially closed, or there is air trapped in your system. Bleed the radiator and verify that the valves are open and the thermostat is set correctly.

If the recommended fixes don’t work for you, or you are uncomfortable working on your radiator, you can turn to American Vintage Home. Our technicians are highly skilled at repairing radiators, so we will have yours back up and running in no time.

Call American Vintage Home at (847) 999-4595 to schedule radiator repairs in the Chicago North Shore area.

Upgrading or Replacing Your Radiator Efficiently

Most modern radiators are designed to last between 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance. If your system is older than 15 years, needs constant, expensive repairs, or has experienced a significant decline in efficiency, it may be time to consider a replacement.

When replacing your radiator, it’s important to find an HVAC team you can trust. In the North Shore area, American Vintage Home is known as the “Older Home Experts” thanks to our extensive experience providing innovative heating and cooling solutions to vintage homes. We’ll set you up with a top-quality heating system that will have you enjoying even and cozy heat all winter long.

Call (847) 999-4595 to request a free, no-obligation estimate for a radiator installation.

Trust American Vintage Home With All Your Radiator Service Needs

An American Vintage Home service van parked in front of a home

Whether you’re seeking professional maintenance, radiator repairs, or a system upgrade, American Vintage Home is here to help. We are proud to be “Chicago’s Older Home Experts,” offering top-quality solutions that preserve the integrity of your home’s historic architecture while bringing high-efficiency heating and cooling to your indoor environment.

Schedule radiator services in the greater Chicago area by calling American Vintage Home at (847) 999-4595 today!

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